- Canadian government denies Blue Jays’ request to play home games in Toronto
- Team is looking at alternative plans to play games in Buffalo or Dunedin
- Blue Jays’ home opener is scheduled for July 27 against the Nationals
Late last week, the Washington Nationals got approval to play their home games at Nationals Park in DC. The city has strict safety measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency approved of reworked guidelines designed specifically to allow the reigning World Series champs to play their home games at Nationals Park.
While the Nats dodged a bullet just a week before the 2020 season is scheduled to begin, another team wasn’t so lucky. On Saturday, the Canadian government rejected the Blue Jays’ plan to play their home games in Toronto as a result of the pandemic.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement, “Unlike preseason training, regular-season games would require repeated cross-border travel of Blue Jays players and staff, as well as opponent teams into and out of Canada. Of particular concern, the Toronto Blue Jays would be required to play in locations where the risk of virus transmission remains high.”
Mendicino added, “Based on the best available public health advice, we have concluded the cross-border travel required for MLB regular-season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety. As a result, Canada will not be issuing a National Interest Exemption for the MLB’s regular season at this time.”
Dunedin or Buffalo?
The Blue Jays had gotten approval from the city and province to proceed with regular-season games at Rogers Centre, but they needed the federal government to sign off on any plans before proceeding. Now, the team is going to have to take last-minute measures to find a venue at which to play the 30 home games on the team’s regular-season schedule.
The Jays’ spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, has emerged as a potential alternative home for the team, but Florida has become the epicenter of the virus in the US in recent weeks. Some Blue Jays players have already said that they would much prefer to play in Toronto over playing in Florida.
A more likely solution is the home stadium of the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, New York. However, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that one of the main concerns with Buffalo’s ballpark is the dim lighting that is said to be substandard for an MLB stadium.
Before the federal government rejected the Blue Jays’ proposal, the team had been in discussions with players about the potential to house players at the Rogers Centre Marriott hotel, which is attached to the ballpark. The team would have bought out apartment leases and paid players at least $20,000 in hardship money.
Canada’s 14-Day Quarantine Protocol
Canada’s current health guidelines call for anyone entering the country to self-quarantine for at least 14 days as a safety precaution. If the Blue Jays had been cleared to host home games in Toronto, Major League Baseball would have had to get an exemption from the Canadian government to try and skirt the 14-day isolation rule.
Non-essential travel between the United States and Canada is banned until August 21 at the earliest. Canada has dealt with the virus far better than the US has, which clearly played a part in the government’s decision to decline the Jays’ plans. Canada has confirmed a total of 110,000 COVID-19 cases, and the numbers have been steadily declining since peaking in early-May.
The United States, meanwhile, has confirmed nearly 3.7 million positive coronavirus cases, and the numbers are continuing to grow with each passing day. The US set a new record with over 77,000 new positive cases just Friday.
Blue Jays To Start Season On The Road
The Blue Jays’ regular-season schedule will begin on Friday, July 24, with the team taking on the Tampa Bay Rays in Florida. The team’s home opener is slated for Monday, July 27, against the Nationals. Obviously, that game and the 29 other home games on the team’s schedule will now take place somewhere other than Canada.
This will mark the first year since 1968 in which no Major League Baseball games will be played in Canada.